If you have been reading Ann’s Running Commentary since July you know that I have struggled horribly with depression and suicidal thoughts. If you have read longer than that you know that my favorite subject for the blog is overcoming the mental obstacles of running and life. So I do find it a little bit ironic that I have had two stays in the mental hospital in the past three months.
But more than that I find it embarrassing. How did I let this happen to me? Why couldn’t I use some of the positive, forward motion ideas I used to get me through the Ironman to get me through the depression?
The first time I went to the hospital. I could not give them my name through the sobs. When they asked me whether I was there for another patient I shook my head, no. When they asked if I was there for myself, I emphatically shook my head yes and continued to utter gut wrenching sobs. Sobs that came from the depression, from the fear that I really was ready to jump off the Bay Bridge and sobs that I had let everybody, not just my family and friends but people who know me through this blog down.
Embarrassment is a state of mind I have never dealt with well. Which is a shame because I embarrass easily. But this time the embarrassment was fueling my depression. The more I thought about what I write here – mind over matter, mental tips and tricks, and overcoming the mind games – the more embarrassed I would become and the deeper I would push myself into my hole.
But then I realized that I have been using those tips and tricks. I have been overcoming the games depression wants to play on me and I am making forward motion, even as the depression keeps pushing me back down.
Depression lies. It tells me I am not worthy. I don’t matter. It keeps me from standing up for myself and turns me into a ball of mush that lies in bed for days at a time. But even on the hardest days, I have forced myself to get out of bed and get in some form of exercise. Sometimes that is a walk, sometimes it is a run, and sometimes, on the worse days, it is simply sitting on my cycle trainer in front of a mindless television show.
But the most important trick I have used, reminds me a lot of telling myself I only have to go on more block, one more mile, one more step. On the days when I wake up and know that I just cannot do it anymore, the days in which I know I am done and the first thing that comes to mind is another way to die. I trick myself. I just have to get out of bed and have a cup of coffee. Then if I really do not want to live I can do something about it. The coffee helps with the rest of the trick. Because as I sit here drinking my coffee I think about what it would be like for one of my children or my husband to find me. I think about what their lives would be like tomorrow and the day after that. I think about the odds that one of them would commit suicide in the future and I know, that today is not a good day to die.
I have always said that running is a lot like life and that most of the lessons we apply to our running lives can be applied to our real lives as well. These days I am learning just how true that is.
Today I have woken up without a single thought of death. I do plan on riding my trainer today but only because it is raining cats and dogs outside. I do not need my mental tricks to stay alive today. But they are there if I need them. And looking back on this crazy journey, I am feeling less embarrassed. I realize that the people who love me and the people who read my blog know I am human. That life is sometimes hard. And that depression is a mental illness that is not entirely in my control. I will get through this – one bite at a time.